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BosNewsLife (12/12/05) – A car bomb killed Christian member of parliament and Lebanese newspaper magnate Gebran Tueni in Beirut on Monday, December 12, a day after he returned from Paris where he had based himself out of fear of assassination because of his anti-Syrian opinions.

Lebanese police reportedly said a car packed with about 40 kilograms of TNT exploded as Tueni’s motorcade passed by. His armored car apparently sailed off the road and into a ravine. Besides Tueni, his driver, and a bystander were also killed.

A previously unknown group calling itself Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant claimed responsibility for the bombing. Its claim faxed to news organizations could not be authenticated.

Tueni was a member of parliament as well as the editor and publisher of Beirut ‘s leading daily newspaper, An-Nahar. He was also a vocal critic of Syria and one of the leaders of the push to get Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon earlier this year.

“You must realize that many Lebanese are uncomfortable with Syrian policies in Lebanon and with the presence of Syrian troops in the country,” he wrote in a daring open letter to the government during the occupation. “Many Lebanese consider Syria ‘s behavior in Lebanon to be completely at odds with the principles of sovereignty, dignity, and independence.”

In Beirut critics blamed Syria for Tueni’s death. “There is no doubt that Bashar Assad and his band of organized criminals are behind all these, this list of crimes,” the Voice of America (VOA) network quoted his uncle, Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, as saying.

Syria denied any involvement in the killing. In published remarks, Syrian Information Minister Mehdi Dakhlallah blamed it on “foreign interference” by what he called “enemies of Lebanon .”

Tueni was the fourth prominent critic of Syria to be assassinated in a string of bombings since last February, when a massive car bomb killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 20 other people. In June, one of his star columnists, Samir Qasir, was killed by a bomb in his car – one of a series of assassinations that have shaken Lebanon in the last year.

Tueni’s maternal uncle, Minister Marwan Hamadeh, who is Druze while Tueni’s mother converted to Christianity, survived an attempt on his life in 2004, in what was considered the first of more than a dozen related bomb attacks.

Most of these attacks rocked Christian areas of Lebanon .

Fearing a possible attack on his life Tueni fled to France in August along with a number of other prominent anti-Syrian figures. The 48-year-old, who was married with four daughters, including twins just a few months old, warned recently that his life may end soon. In August he reportedly told French radio that a hit list of Lebanese political figures had been unearthed by the UN-appointed investigation into the Hariri assassination.

“My name is on top of this list,” he was quoted as saying at the time.